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The Mistake (is drawing and painting).

January 4, 2011

The mistake has obvious negative connotations; as animals throughout their lifetime try to avoid pain, people seem to spend a lot time attempting to avoid making mistakes. This holds for the making artwork too (though it seems to be a learned attribute to creation, which children under a certain age and natural artist’s seem oblivious of).

On the flip side, the mistake could be heralded as a point of reference, a place which lets us know where we stand with something. We are social animals and naturally look upon other humans to compare ourselves with- even (or especially) geniuses need benchmarks, apparently they were not floating isolated in a personal space before coming up with the goods..

At the heart of this blog are the sketches, a natural place for mistakes to run their course- for some this may be that reclaimed childhood obliviousness to sheer creativity. Personally, I begin to make work with certain intentions in mind, yet time and time again if I proceed without making a mistake I begin to feel a strange negative tension of creating, that the work in hand seems to be proceeding along the line of perfection, one I am bound to eventually lose somewhere along the way (it has taken me a long time to realise something like this). As the work is not finished, nor has it got anything in it I want to fix, to find, to resolve, to obliterate or include.

Mistakes make one fight and direct the push and pull of work in progress. This isn’t necessarily genre specific to a type of art which carries these tensions (the problem solving of preplanned or graphic work often continues to remain critical throughout its making. The final result can nevertheless still fall flat on its face). Maybe, its the ‘good’ artist who learns how to recognise this, a maturity of selection making. So, in this case the mistake is part of the evolution of a work in progress, the selection of mistakes to resolution bring about all the decisions necessary for the work, no matter if the decisions you make are through the hand, the head, the heart or the eye.

The sketchy drawings here with painting and ink in use still do not illustrate a pure mistake, something which is wished to be undone. Does the finished work I finally show disguise the mistakes?

Yes. In a certain way they are part of the tension, part of the movement, possibly it is that the mistakes are in conjunction with the work as it goes through its paces, over time it erases mistakes as they were the necessary traces. Recently I read a quote by the painter Peter Doig which sums this up well, its by making: “mistake upon mistake”.

-If this was the description of your life, it still doesn’t necessarily mean it was a terrible life! Or am I mistaken?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2011 2:16 pm

    I am a very armature painter and am never satisfied with what I do. Sorta like my life used to be. Now, as a person who has been retired for 6 years, I find I no longer feel like my life is unsatisfactory. Although, I still make mistakes, I just don’t obsess over them. Every mistake just points out that I am still alive. The day I quit making mistakes is the day I die.

  2. January 18, 2011 9:59 pm

    Very intellectual post about sketches and their natural ability for mistakes to run their course and their obliviousness to sheer creativity

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